‘How are you?”
This used to be a piece of meaningless rhetoric. Nowadays, I dread the question.
I usually answer with a simple “fine, and you?” but in all honesty, I avoid thinking about it.
“How are you?” I asked one of my clients this week.
“I feel like a god,” he said.
“Everybody ignores me until they want something.”
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Covid-19 has taken its toll even on simple greetings. As DH Lawrence wrote in the first paragraph of his Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically”.
The sad truth is that we are not fine. We are all in limp home mode. The daily slog has become a battle for survival. I have to put in 12-hour workdays to pay the school fees and to afford substandard, illegal cigarettes. Most of the people around me share my fate.
But, as Lawrence also said: “The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats… We go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”
We’re all starting to build new habitats that have to protect us from the reality of a dysfunctional Covid-19 world. Some resort to religion or contraband alcohol.
Others find solace in social causes. I place all my hope in romance. Yes, I have a date with the lovely Snapdragon tomorrow evening. Thanks to a life full of unfamiliar pressures, we have had little time for each other over the past weeks. With the result that I asked my gorgeous, battle-scarred spouse for a date a month ago. Yes, a month ago.
A date where the worries over infections and a plummeting economy has no place. Where we can laugh and be stupid and I can see the woman I fell in love with behind those green eyes. Where I
can just be a man and not an obsolete god; where it is all right to be human and to hope again.
Perhaps I’m just a sad, middle-aged man to value the escapism romance offers. But it’s my prerogative to scramble over my obstacles as I see fit while I refuse to take our age tragically.
We each choose our own sanitiser for the soul. In my case it is romance.
May it keep the worry pandemic at bay this weekend.